Ibn Warraq: Walter Scott, The Talisman, the Crusades, Richard I of England and Saladin: Myths, Legends and History (Part 42)
Posted by Robert on January 17, 2013 8:57 AM
Some of the Christians of Jerusalem ended up in Alexandria, where “they were better received in the land of the Saracens than the others who had gone to the land of Tripoli”.  Similarly, the Lyon Eracles recounts how the Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem were shipwrecked on Cyprus where Isaac, the lord of Cyprus, in an act of wanton cruelty had them all decapitated. The chronicle adds, “[These Christian pilgrims] encountered greater cruelty among those who called themselves Christians than they would have found with the unbelieving Saracens.” 
As the Christians came to see Saladin in a more favorable light, they accounted for his chivalrous virtues by claiming that he had Christian noble blood flowing through his veins, as in the fourteenth century Crusade epic poem, Baudouin de Sebourc, and the fifteenth century prose, Saladin, both of which belong to the body of work referred to as the second crusade cycle. Other works with the same theme include the 15th century romance, Jean d’Avesnes. Equally numerous are stories reporting Saladin’s generosity, such as Novellino, a collection of short stories composed in the late thirteenth century. In Boccaccio’s Decameron [composed 1370-1371], on Day One, Story Three, and Day Ten, Story Nine, Saladin makes his appearance: “Boccaccio’s Saladin is no less lavish: in the story of the three rings, he thanks the Jew who lent him money by showering him with gifts; and in the tale of Torello, gentleman of Pavia, he is able to appreciate his guest’s largesse and even rival it at the proper moment, when he sends him home covered in jewels.”  Another Italian, Busone da Gubbio, a friend of Dante, wrote L’Avventurosa Ciciliano in 1311, and in the additional Osservazioni which follow Book III, gives examples of Saladin’s magnanimity. 
“Loyalty to his oaths, prowess, largesse, magnanimity, and courtesy: Saladin possessed all the virtues of a good knight. But he is also praised for his austerity and humility, virtues that had some basis in truth.”  Voltaire, in chapter 56 of his Essai sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations,  makes allusions to these virtues of Saladin, “[Saladin] died three years later in Damascus, admired even by the Christians. In place of the flag raised outside his door, during his last illness he displayed the sheet in which he was to be buried. The person holding that standard of death cried out loud: ‘Here is everything that Saladin, conqueror of the East, takes away from his conquests.’ It is said that, in his will, he left alms to be distributed equally to the Mohammedan, Jewish, and Christian poor, wishing to make clear by that provision that all men are brothers, and that to help them, one must not seek to know what they believe but rather what they suffer. Few of our Christian princes have had that magnanimity; and few of the chroniclers with which Europe is overburdened have known how to do him justice.”  In the nineteenth century, Chateaubriand repeats the story, “Saladin died soon after the taking of Ptolemais: he directed that, on the day of his funeral, a shroud should be carried on the point of a spear, and herald proclaim in a loud voice: "Saladin, the conqueror of Asia, out of all the fruits of his victories, carries with him only this shroud." ” 
The above story was widely disseminated in collections of exempla to serve as models for sermons to be used by Christian preachers.
 Ibid., p.65.
 Ibid., p.101.
 Eddé, op.cit., p.481.
 Ibid,p. 481, Jubb, op.cit., p. 79.
 Eddé, p. 484.
 Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations, 1756
 Voltaire, quoted by Eddé, pp. 484-485.
 Chateaubriand. Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem, 1811, English translation by Frederic Shoberl, Travels in Greece, Palestine, Egypt, and Barbary, during the years 1806 and 1807. New York: Van Winkle and Wiley, 1814, p.318.
To be continued.
Article printed from Jihad Watch: http://www.jihadwatch.org/2013/01/ibn-warraq-walter-scott-the-talisman-the-crusades-richard-i-of-england-and-saladin-myths-legends-and-42.htmlURLs in this post: